Athlon notes ''sour taste''

Athlon's preseason college football magazine tabs Tennessee as the No. 18 team in the land.

The issue, on newsstands now, notes that back-to-back Peach Bowl losses to Maryland and Clemson have ''left a sour taste in Big Orange Country,'' but that head coach Phillip Fulmer is optimistic about 2004.

''So much of what happens to us this season will come from the attitude of the team,'' Fulmer is quoted as saying. ''It's a matter of how they bond and how hard they work. Potentially, it's a real good football team.''

Other notes of interest:

• Under the heading ''Keys to a BCS Bowl,'' Athlon's analyst writes: ''Tennessee needs an adequate quarterback who can get the ball in playmakers' hands while keeping it away from the defense. The Vols' receiving corpps, while unproven, is as deep as any UT unit dating back to Peyton Manning's senior year of 1997... ''

• Under the heading ''Rising Star,'' Athlon notes that redshirt freshman receiver Robert Meachem ''has speed, hands and a graceful nature about him that has Fulmer comparing him to former UT great Carl Pickens.''

• Athlon notes that Tennessee's front seven ''appears formidable, going 12 deep on the defensive line and six deep at linebacker.'' The piece subsequently points out that defensive coordinator John Chavis fielded eight consecutive run defenses ranked in the top 15 nationally before slipping to No. 33 in 2002 and No. 43 in 2003.

• Tennessee's kicking game is ranked ''among the best in the country with consensus All-America punter Dustin Colquitt returning for his senior campaign and kicker James Wilhoit coming off a Freshman All-America season.''

• Under the heading ''Key Vols'' Athlon notes that tackle Michael Munoz ''could be the best in the country,'' that Dustin Colquitt's ''booming kicks change field position,'' that defensive end Parys Haralson is a ''disruptive end gets to QBs,'' that linebacker Kevin Burnett is a ''potential Butkus Award winner'' and that cornerback Jason Allen ''can lock down any SEC receiver.''

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